Chief Morale Officer in the Trenches

I previously blogged about the Chief Morale Officer (CMO) who would focus on employee happiness. This is important because happy employees produce more high quality work more quickly and they’ll work for you longer, which becomes a huge competitive advantage.

So you’ve done everything you can think of to make people happy and some people are still complaining. Ugh! It sucks when you try hard to make people happy and they complain!

It seems like your complainers should have two options: shape up or ship out. Dave Ramsey, a conservative leadership guru has a “no gossip policy” that he writes and talks about (see the episode with Jon Gordon). Basically, people get one warning before being fired. It sounds harsh, but you attract and retain people who are focused and love the job.

If firing complainers is too extreme, you have to change people. Here are a few ideas about how to change the culture:

  • There’s a branch of psychology called positive psychology that endeavors to help people be happier and more productive. You might be able to apply some of the lessons learned to your organization; for example, start each day with gratitude.
  • Zig Ziglar has a solution to cure “stinkin’ thinkin’”: write a list of everything you like about your job and consistently focus on the positive. The list might contain points like, “short commute,” “lovable co-workers,” “good pay,” “good benefits,” “profit sharing,” “empowerment,” etc. Perhaps employees could form small groups and brainstorm positive aspects of work then compare lists.
  • You could also try a 21 day complaint-free challenge as proposed by A Complaint Free World. The basic idea is to wear a bracelet (or some physical reminder) and switch arms anytime you complain. You win if you can go 21 days in a row without complaining.
  • The No Asshole Rule talks about how harmful negativity is in the workplace. One person summarized the book as, ‘whenever people experience negativity they need to vent about five times, which wastes a ton of time across an organization.’ Letting people know about the harm caused by negativity could help subdue complaints. Perhaps you could have a company-wide reading group or meet to watch a summary video online.
  • One last idea based on net promoter score (NPS). Have people rate their happiness on a scale from 0 to 10; 0-6 are your detractors, 9-10 are promoters, and 7-8 are passives. Forget about detractors and focus on how to convert your passives into promoters. In addition to standard evaluation procedures, employees could be rated on their positivity. As negative people stagnate and positive people move ahead, I think your culture would change.

Have you found something else that works? What’s your favorite technique for curbing negativity or encouraging positivity?